TNT man handles Meralco, gets momentum heading into collision vs San Miguel
TNT carved out yet another victory in the PBA Governors’ Cup eliminations, extending the longest winning streak to five games as the Tropang Giga remained on top of the heap.
But an injury to one of its key players could pose as a big concern heading into a big clash with heavyweight San Miguel Beer as RR Pogoy twisted an ankle in the second quarter of a 111-104 win over Meralco Friday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Coach Jojo Lastimosa, though, sounded far from worried and is actually looking forward to the challenge of trying to chop down the Beermen on Sunday.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Lastimosa said of a San Miguel side that played Barangay Ginebra in the nightcap. “I think it’s gonna be a big challenge, knowing San Miguel, which is also playing well.
“We’re just gonna be ready and I think the guys are ready,” he added.
His Tropang Giga was more than ready for the Bolts, whom they led by as large as 22 points as TNT jacked up its record to 7-1 while dealing Meralco its third loss in six games.
Mikey Williams tallied 25 points on the day he was selected by fans to play in next month’s All-Star Game in Passi City, Iloilo.
Great RHJ effort
Calvin Oftana, also a first-time All-Star, produced well to backstop import Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who had another strong game with 34 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and two steals.
“I think we still have enough forces left on my bench,” Lastimosa said after injuries to Pogoy and Jayson Castro, who also sprained his ankle but returned to eventually finish with 16 points.
“Well, these guys know how to grind it out, coming off back-to-back games. Thankfully, the guys were ready.”
TNT plays San Miguel on Sunday at Philsports Arena in Pasig City, with Pogoy’s status an important question mark before the Fiba World Cup Qualifiers where he is part of the Gilas Pilipinas pool for the home games against Lebanon and Jordan.
Pogoy is considered as a shoo-in for a Gilas spot, but Lastimosa believes he can play against the Beermen and then answer the call of national duty next week.
“It’s not that bad that he was able to come back and I’m hoping that it’s not severe,” Lastimosa said.
Meralco lost for the second straight game and the Bolts are now tied with streaking Magnolia at sixth spot.
KJ McDaniels’ 26 points and 15 rebounds couldn’t lift the Bolts, who narrowed the gap to single digits in the dying seconds.
Barangay Ginebra’s popularity weighed heavily over players excelling throughout the 47th season after eight Gin Kings were voted by fans to see action in the All-Star Game.
While Japeth Aguilar and Scottie Thompson, who will be responsible for forming their respective teams as the top two vote-getters, Jamie Malonzo, Christian Standhardinger, LA Tenorio and even Stanley Pringle were expected inclusions, two Ginebra players surprisingly got nods from fans who took part in the voting process.
Rookie reserve Jeremiah Gray and defensive lynchpin Nards Pinto got themselves into the top 24 after the balloting ended last Feb. 15.
Coach Tim Cone will call the shots for one of the teams in the All-Star contest on March 12 after topping the tally. He’ll be challenged by Rain or Shine’s Yeng Guiao, who was second.
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